The Twilight Struggle: Lies We Believe

Depression is a Lady without Mercy.
Depression is a Lady without Mercy.

We are telling people horrible lies, peddling false hopes in the name of Jesus. Jesus is alive. He answers prayer, but he is not Genie Jesus that will give us what we want in the way we want it. He wants our long term good, not our short term good, and part of the good He wishes for us is a free will. The cosmos is deeply interconnected. Every stroke of this keyboard has results only God can know. He does what is best, but the variables are immense in His creation. He is the God who knows the sparrow falls and cares for every hurt we feel. Every evil is redeemed in the end, but the process is (by necessity) very slow. This side of Paradise we live in a world of pain.

The old hymns knew it, if our television evangelists have forgotten it. You cannot “name it and claim it” because we do not practice witchcraft in Christendom. Instead, we have a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father who most often must say “not yet” to us because of the brokenness of the world. Raw power cannot solve our problem. Jesus began and in one sense finished our reclamation on the Cross by the power of His defeat of death, but we are not yet at the end of history. We have won, but the victory is not manifest.

The Saint Constantine School is a sister program to  Wheatstone Ministries and one of our students followed up with questions about her own situation. With her permission, I quote her: Dear Miss Sayers, Please feel free to write what you wish. It was neither very long or rambling . . .though our readers may think that I am the wrong person to judge long and rambling. You write:

A lot of the things you said to do practically in the beginning of part one were so much better than anything I heard from the church at all. I have gotten as much help for my depression/anxiety as possible, I have x which can cause depression/anxiety so I thought it was that, but the doctor a few weeks ago told me that I’m actually healthy finally and should be symptom free now, which I am, aside from the lingering depression and anxiety that just refuse to leave me alone. I’ve also been going to a counselor for a while now and have done so during college for a few semesters.

First, well done. You went to a doctor. Keep going. Go again. Tell him that you still have symptoms of depression. One problem may have been masking another problem. Never be ashamed to tell your physician that helping you with one problem did not help with another. Second, make sure you are going to weekly counseling. You cannot talk to a trained counselor too often. Remember that when something has been “out of whack” physically and emotionally, it might take time for the wounds to heal. Some wounds leave scars. We will pray that those scars become “beauty marks,” but do not be ashamed to admit that they are there in any case. You are who you are. You continue:

And a few weeks ago, this speaker named Y  (he’s pretty cool, you might’ve heard of him?) and he prayed with me and over me about spiritual strongholds/oppression and I thought I was better for a little while but it didn’t last either. I tried so hard. I felt so free that day but by the time I went to bed and got up the next morning I felt like the world was gray and foggy and depressing again.

This is good. You got some freedom . . . and it suggests some aspect of your problem is spiritual. However, just as a physical problem rarely disappears with one pill, so deep spiritual bondage does not go away without disciplined prayer and fasting. Don’t trust anyone who says the spiritual life is “instant.” It is not. We have a long pilgrim’s progress to make. Jesus walks with us, but rarely is the journey easy. Have you read Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress? Do.  You will see that Bunyan, like all Christians, did not think that one prayer in the “war room” or even a week of prayer would always chase away the problems. After Bunyan read Imitation of Christ. You will have read two people who understood exactly what you are experiencing.

So nothing seems to actually work, and when I talk about that, literally everyone tells me the same things, “trust in God, rest in Him, cry out and He’ll be there!” But I have cried out, I have sobbed on the floor so many times over and asked Him for help in this mess and I haven’t felt or seen or heard anything different. At “Z” last  night . . .  we were worshipping and I was crying in the back because everyone is like “God is telling me to delight in this .  . . ! Delight in Him!” or something like “God laid it on my heart to tell you all this ….” and it just felt like I was imploding because I want that so badly but through the last year I can’t even pick up a Bible without sobbing.

Let me say a hard thing: we are a superficial people. We think that if we buy a religious product, our problems will vanish. Read the Old Testament prophets and you will see that the Word of the Lord was rarely so simple as people make it today. God confronted His people’s problems in Old Testament times and refused to allow them to ignore the cancer of their sin with spiritual painkillers. Anyone who cries when they pick up the Bible is deeply spiritual. We live (as we most often do) in difficult and hard times. We sob before God because so many people are hurting. . . including you. It is a sign of grace that easy answers do not help you, because in a world with ISIS and slavery in Sudan, easy answers are an insult. God does love you. He does want you to enjoy life all you can. Sadly, He also sees what is real and knows that there are many roadblocks to you having what He longs to give you: total happiness. Do not look to today. Look to Heaven. We are impatient with pain, but pain we must have, because so many people have abused their free wills. We have abused our free wills! It is a painful time when evil is exalted and where anyone who says “Peace, peace” when there is not peace, is missing the full message of God to this age. Here is part of the Word of the Lord:

For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the Lord.

There is a remnant that will be saved. All can find peace with God and that peace will come by grace through faith, but the full experience of that peace will never exist before Jesus returns to rule and reign on the Earth. Anyone who tells you differently is peddling vaporware and not reality.

It is encouraging to know that people like Mother Theresa didn’t feel Him at times either, but I don’t know how to be a Christian that doesn’t seem to “experience God” when every Christian I know seems to experience Him constantly. And I know we can’t always be happy, I just don’t know how other people seem to have joy or happiness a lot more often than I do and I hide myself away so that I won’t be a drag because I can no longer fake the happiness and pretend like I’m ok.

I do not need to tell you that “faking it” isn’t good. You might also know by now that many people who seem happy are also faking it, though not all are. Some people have different paths than the path we both must walk. Is this fair? No, but it is just. We get what we need and not what we want. Everything you write shouts out to me of an experience of God. You cry out to Him constantly and He is there. You cannot stop calling out to Him because the very silence is pregnant with His love. At least that is what it seems in my own life . . . You are not O.K. Nobody is O.K. It is good to see this and acknowledge the truth. I don’t know why the church in America hides this fact.

Are the Christians in Syria jolly as they are persecuted? Are the “good Christians” who use things like Ashley Madison really full of joy or are they hiding their real problems? Be O.K. with a God who loves you when you are not O.K. You went on to  describe a horrible three years. Evidently nobody in the church had time to talk to you about your needs. I understand. Not everybody has that calling, but your pastor does or should. If your pastor will not talk to you weekly about your spiritual life, get a new church.

And I know I can’t rely on people, we’re flawed, but I couldn’t go to God, couldn’t feel or hear or see or experience God so I was only able to rely on people, and got no help for a dangerously long time.

You have to find a community of people that you can trust. We are not meant to be alone. When Adam had God and no sin, God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. Humans are meant for “cities.” Find a church where people will let you be real . . . and help you be the person God called you to be.

God is supposed to make us whole right? Where is He? How do I get made whole? Did I somehow pray the prayer wrong? I am desperate for His help but where is He?

There is no “right” way to pray. He hears. He wishes to help us grow whole, but it is growing and not magic. He wants you to grow into maturity and yourself and not just be zapped into someone different than the person He created you to be. You are “born again” and now must grow to maturity and that takes time.  Do not be afraid to get some deep help. Ask and see if there is a retreat center where you can go away and get some healing.

P.S. yeah Christian movies are kind of actually terrible

They are not terrible because they are Christian, but terrible because they say they are and are not.

Your chum,

John Mark

 

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*Not her real name. Certain details have been excised. The first two parts of my discussion with Miss Sayers on depression can be found here and here.


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